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Pompeius, aiming for Haemonian glens
And forests lone, urged on his wearied steed
Scarce heeding now the spur; by devious tracks
Seeking to veil the footsteps of his flight:
The rustle of the foliage, and the noise
Of following comrades filled his anxious soul
With terrors, as he fancied at his side
Some ambushed enemy. Fallen from the height
Of former fortunes, still the chieftain knew
His life not worthless; mindful of the fates:
And 'gainst the price he set on Caesar's head,
He measures Caesar's value of his own.
Yet, as he rode, the features of the chief
Made known his ruin. Many as they sought
The camp Pharsalian, ere yet was spread
News of the battle, met the chief, amazed,
And wondered at the whirl of human things:
Nor held disaster sure, though Magnus' self
Told of his ruin. Every witness seen
Brought peril on his flight: 'twere better far
Safe in a name obscure, through all the world
To wander; but his ancient fame forbad.
Too long had great Pompeius from the height
Of human glory, envied of mankind,
Looked on all others; nor for him henceforth
Could life be lowly. The honours of his youth
Too early thrust upon him, and the deeds
Which brought him triumph in the Sullan days,
His conquering navy and the Pontic war,
Made heavier now the burden of defeat,
And crushed his pondering soul. So length of days
Drags down the haughty spirit, and life prolonged
When power has fled. Unless when honour fails
Comes end of life, and timely death forestalls
Ensuing woe, the glory of past years
Is present shame. Who'd venture on the sea
Of favouring fortune but for death at need?
Hard by Peneus' flood he reached the main
Now with Pharsalus' slaughter blushing red:
And borne in sloop, to shallows of a stream
Scarce equal, dared the deep: Liburnia's lord,
Lord of Cilicia, at whose countless oars
Yet Leucas' inlets and Corcyra shook,
Crept to the shelter of a tiny bark.
For thou didst beckon him to Lesbos' shores,
Thou, partner of the sorrows of thy lord,
Cornelia! Sadder far thy life apart
Than wert thou present in Thessalia's fields.
Racked is thy heart with presages of ill;
Pharsalia fills thy dreams and when the shades
Give place to dawn, with hasty step thou tread'st
Some cliff sea-beaten, and with gaze intent
To mark the sail of each approaching ship
Art first: yet dar'st not ask thy husband's fate.
Lo! the ship comes, her load of ills unknown,
Thy worst of fears some messenger of woe,
Some evil tidings of the battle day:
Nay! it is he, thy husband in defeat:
Fear then no more, but weep; nor waste the hour.
He leaps to land; she marks the cruel doom
Wrought by the gods upon him: pale and wan
His weary features, by the hoary locks
Shaded; the dust of travel on his garb.
Dark on her soul a night of anguish fell;
Her trembling limbs no longer bore her frame:
Scarce throbbed her heart, and prone on earth she lay
Deceived in hope of death. The boat made fast,
Pompeius treading the lone waste of sand
Drew near; whom when Cornelia's maidens saw,
They stayed their weeping, yet with sighs subdued,
Reproached the fates; and tried in vain to raise
Their mistress' form, till Magnus to his breast
Drew her with cherishing arms; and at the touch
Of soothing hands the life-blood to her veins
Returned once more, and she could bear to look
Upon his features. He forbad despair,
Chiding her grief. ' Not at the earliest blow
By Fortune dealt, inheritress of fame
Bequeathed by noble fathers, should thy strength
Thus fail and yield: renown shall yet be thine,
To last through ages; not of laws decreed
Nor conquests won; a gentler path to thee
As to thy sex, is given; thy husband's woe.
Let thine affection struggle with the fates,
And in his misery love thy lord the more.
I bring thee greater glory, for that gone
Is all the pomp of lictors, gone the crowd
Of faithful senators, and the band of kings;
Now first Pompeius for himself alone
'Tis thine to love. Curb this unbounded grief,
' While yet I breathe, unseemly. O'er my tomb
' Weep out thy full, the final pledge of faith.
' Thou hast no loss, nor has the war destroyed
' Aught save my fortune. If for that thy grief,
' That was thy love.'
Roused by her husband's words,
Yet scarcely could she raise her trembling limbs,
Thus speaking through her sobs: ' Would I had sought
' Detested Caesar's couch, ill-omened wife
' Of spouse unhappy; at my nuptials twice
' A Fury has been bridesmaid; and the ghosts
' Of slaughtered Crassi, with avenging shades
' Brought by my wedlock to thy doomed camp
' A Parthian massacre. Twice my star has cursed
' The world, and peoples have been hurled to death
' In one red moment; and the gods through me
' Have left the better cause. 0, hero mine,
' O mightiest husband, wedded to a wife
' Unworthy! 'Twas through her that Fortune gained
'The right to strike thee. Wherefore did I wed
' To bring thee misery? Mine, mine the guilt,
' Mine be the penalty. And that the wave
' May bear thee gently onwards, and the kings
'May keep their faith to thee, and all the earth
' Be ready to thy rule, me from thy side
' Cast to the billows. Rather had I died
' To bring thee victory; thy disasters thus,
Thus expiate. And, cruel Julia, thee,
' Who by this war hast vengeance on our vows,
' From thine abode I call: atonement find
' In this thy rival's death, and spare at least
' Thy Magnus.' Then upon his breast she fell,
While all the concourse wept-e'en Magnus' self,
Who saw Thessalia's field without a tear.
1 Comp. Book VI., line 406.
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